It’s Labour Day Weekend and an annual tradition for us. Going to the Harrow Fair. It’s the last hurrah before the days get shorter and it’s always a fun outing. This year’s theme is “Bushels, Bales, and Tails”.
This is an old-time fair that’s been running for 166 years and they were mentioning 168 if it wasn’t for the past couple of years. It really is family-friendly – no beer gardens, you play bingo with corn on your cards, go for rides, attend a concert sitting on boards lying on top of straw bales placed on the “big” ball diamond, people crowing contest, amazing quilts, connect with 4-H and Scouts, and more. It’s my annual quiz to see if I know what the 4 Hs are. I was 3 for 4 this year.
Yes, there’s a place for the Western Fair or the Canadian National Exhibition but there’s something cozier about a small town event.
Parking is always a challenge as the town explodes with people coming from all over the place and rather than trolling the side streets, I just parked on the ball diamond by the now closed high school.
Normally, we go on the Saturday or Sunday but this year we went on opening night, Thursday, because there was an Elvis performing. My wife is a big fan. We were also looking forward to seeing the pies fresh. They take on a different look by the time Sunday rolls around.
Of course, we had to check out her favourites – the Banty Hens (non-farm people read the entry cards and note that it’s Bantam Hens).
And there’s also everything that is grown – huge pumpkins, alfalfa, tomatoes like you wouldn’t believe, apples, and kids’ photography and artistry everywhere. Did I mention huge stalks of sunflowers? This just touches the surface. There are permanent display places for everything.
Of course, there’s nothing like fair food. We try to eat well at home and do have an air fryer but there’s something just special about deep-fried anything.
When the sun went down, Elvis appeared with his band The Silvertones.
I hadn’t heard this song in years.
It was also special to have Jim Crichton there to officially open the fair. He’s looking great in his retirement.
But the real star of the afternoon/evening was an event that has been running for 23-25 years. The pie auction! This is a great fundraiser and gives the proceeds to the John McGivney Centre. The process is pretty simple. They take the first and second winning pies and auction them off to the audience. There were 71 to be auctioned by real auctioneers. It was an interesting 90 or more minutes.
The event started with our local MP donating $1 000 to the fund. He closed the evening auctioning off a dinner with his wife and him at Mettawa Station in Kingsville. Someone paid $3 200 for the privilege.
I actually bid on the first pie – rhubarb – for $50 and got a dirty look. $50? I wasn’t worried about the Peterson fortune – it ultimately went for $600. You do get a tax certificate with your purchase (minus a slice taken for judging). There was a gasp when the first one went for $1 000 but that wasn’t the only one. The biggest bid I can remember was $3 200.
That was until we got to the “Best in Show” pie. What would you pay? If you said $6 100, you were correct!
They even auctioned off a cake that the judges didn’t want to taste because it looked so good.
During the Elvis show, the organizing team came on the stage to tell us that $49 600 had been raised for the John McGivney Centre. That brought the total over the years to close to $250 000. Jessica Sartori, the CEO, appeared to be a bit overwhelmed by the large number.
Recently, I had a chat with a Facebook friend about the power of small community gatherings. I definitely saw and felt it in action here. It was nice to support the local Scouts for something as simple as buying a bottle of water for $1.00 rather than $2.00 or more from the bigger places.
Often, people spend a lot of time, money, and effort to get to those big events in a city far away. These experiences remind me that sometimes the best things happen right in your own community.
Or, in our case, one town over.
We hope to make a few more outings for Fall Fairs. Do you have one you could recommend?